Ron Artest to play for Cheshire Jets [Updated]
Sometime in the next month, Lakers forward Ron Artest will be taking his talents to the Cheshire Jets of the British Basketball League, according to a person who was familiar with the negotiations but wasn't authorized to speak about it publicly.
[Updated 11:01 a.m. Aug. 10: A deal between Artest and the Jets has not been finalized, but the team is still hopeful. Read more: Cheshire Jets official: Team has offered Ron Artest a stake ]
Artest appeared to confirm his plans to play with the Jets by posting a picture of Jets center Matt Schneck holding a jersey featuring his proposed name change, "Metta World Peace."
It still remains unclear when will mark his first day in a Cheshire Jet uniform, but the team website indicates that its season begins on Sept. 30 and runs through April 22. Per FIBA rules, Artest would have to return to rejoin the Lakers as soon as the NBA lockout ends.
"Go Jets!!!!! Uk , here we come!!!" Artest tweeted. "Jets are the best!!! Jets are the best!!! New chant!!!!!!!!!"
Artest's agent, David Bauman, didn't immediately return a phone call, but it had long been suspected this might be a possibility ever since Artest told The Times' Bill Plaschke in early July that he might play for the team even while saying this about the British Basketball League: "The teams aren't good." Even with various reports indicating earlier this month he was nearing a deal with the Jets, Artest said eight days ago after a comedy show in Brea that there aren't any specific teams he'd consider playing for overseas.
He still maintained, however, that his interest rested primarily in the U.K.
"I'm just trying to have fun," Artest said after performing at the Brea Improv Comedy Club. "If I go somewhere, whatever I do in L.A., it'll be the same thing over there. If I go overseas, I want to be able to have fun with the fans and with the people. I don't want to be bored. I want to be somewhere where we can play ball and have fun. That's why I'm interested in the U.K., because I can really go there and make it a rap show. Just play ball, be crazy and entertain. I want to entertain."
Amid false reports circulating in July that Artest would play in Finland, Bauman said that the main variable involves whether Artest could get insurance and be protected from possible injury. When that point was brought up to Artest, he didn't sound concerned.
"You just have to work," said Artest, who has a three-year, $21-million contract remaining with the Lakers. "If you get fired, you have to get work. If you're not getting paid, you have to find a job."
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Photo: Matt Schneck of the Cheshire Jets holds a jersey that's ready for Lakers forward Ron Artest. Credit: Ron Artest via Twitter